Back in May two Rusk County deputies shot and killed Val Joe Strong after a high speed chase and for three months the two deputies as well as Strong's family have been waiting to see if charges will be filed. Monday the waiting ended.
A joint commission including the Chippewa County District Attorney, Department of Justice and the State Attorney Generals office announced Monday morning that Sheriff’s Deputies Peter Jones and Mark Ohmstead acted reasonably in their decision to use deadly force. Monday they also released video from that night.
“Shots fired, suspect down! Shots fired, suspect down! Officer’s 10-2, we need an ambulance! Officer’s 10-2 we need an ambulance! Suspect is down.” This is what could be heard from Deputy Ohmstead on his dash cam video after the shooting.
The shooting was the end of a 59 second confrontation after a 20 minute high speed chase in Rusk and Chippewa counties. Investigators say it all started when Strong threatened to burn a house down that he and his wife were building in Ladysmith. An hour later the garage of that building was on fire. When deputies found Strong to question him on the fire, he fled.
Chippewa County D.A. Jon Theisen said based on the dash cam video, the deputies were calm and collected throughout the chase, and restrained from using force earlier in the confrontation after Strong lost control of his car and crashed.
In an account given by Deputy Ohmstead about an hour after the shooting, he says initially Strong complied and put his hands out the window of his car, but when he got out of the car, he was reaching with both hands into the small of his back, dove back into the car, searched for something, then quickly pointed his hand at the deputies. That's when the deputies opened fire. Theisen says any of these actions would have been justifiable grounds for using force.
"The actual only justification, the only fine point that we put out on is, we're only looking for the instance when they shoot, were they justified at that time" Theisen said Monday at the press conference.
Rusk County Sheriff David Kaminski says he never questioned the deputies’ decisions to shoot. “Officers lose their lives everyday because maybe they didn't make that right decision and families have to live with that and this one I believe they made the right decision and it was backed by the investigation."
Theisen says though it was justified the deputies still have to live with their decision. Sheriff Kaminski says both deputies will be back on the road patrolling this week. With the joint commissions decision to not press charges, the case was closed immediately following the announcement.